SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Practical Identity, Contingency and Humanity
(Ethics, )

A Aim of this paper is to defend the view that all human practical identities are contingent, which means that there is no single practical identity that human beings necessarily display and cannot shed. I will reach this aim by arguing against the opposite view, namely that at least one practical identity is necessary. This view is defended by Christine M. Korsgaard (Korsgaard, 1996, 2009), who thinks that the practical identity of humanity is necessary for all human beings. Korsgaard understands humanity both in terms of pure self-legislation, and as deep sociality. In the first case, humanity as self-legislation faces what I call "Existential dilemma": either humanity has specific contents, typical of contingent practical identities, but stops being necessary for all human beings, or humanity is emptied of its content and is conceived as necessary self-legislation, but stops being a practical identity. In the second case, i.e., humanity as deep sociality, Korsgaard confuses the necessary biological fact that human beings are a social species like termites and wolves, with contingent contexts of human socialization, which are the true sources of specifically human practical identities. I articulate this confusion in the guise of what I call "Nature/Nurture dilemma", which also applies to the morally neutral account of human personhood advocated by Schechtman (Schechtman, 2014). My conclusion is that conceiving of practical identities as always contingent accommodates common intuitions about selectively ascribing humanity to other people and allows for a better understanding of the value of practical identities, while not undermining universalistic conceptions of morality.

Chair: Glenn Anderau
Time: 14:40-15:10, 09 September 2021 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Damiano Ranzenigo 
(University of Konstanz, )



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